Canadian troops and gendarmerie at the forefront of Israeli-Palestinian clashes

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OTTAWA – A handful of Canadian Armed Forces members and RCMP officers have occupied front row seats over the past two weeks as protests and violence rocked parts of Israel and the Gaza Strip , killing dozens.

OTTAWA – A handful of Canadian Armed Forces members and RCMP officers have occupied front row seats over the past two weeks as protests and violence rocked parts of Israel and the Gaza Strip , killing dozens.

The 23 Canadian soldiers and three members of the gendarmerie are part of a US-led mission, first launched in 2005 and based in East Jerusalem, to train Palestinian security forces in the West Bank .

Brig.-Gen. Jeannot Boucher, the commander of Task Force Jerusalem, says the Canadians make up the mission’s largest contingent, which includes around 20 Americans and a smaller number of British, Dutch and Turkish trainers.

“We mainly work with the PA security forces to try to build capacity,” Boucher said in a recent interview. “We spend most of the time trying to facilitate coordination between the PA security forces and the Israel Defense Forces.”

Yet Canadians have been largely confined to their compound and forced to work remotely since clashes between protesters and Israeli police erupted in East Jerusalem a few weeks ago over the threat of deportation of Palestinian families.

The focal point of the protests was Sheikh Jarrah, a predominantly Palestinian neighborhood only about 200 meters from where the Canadians are based. Hundreds of people gathered recently on Saturday to protest against the planned evictions.

“There have been protests that the Israeli security forces fought against with a mixture of stun grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas,” Boucher said. “So obviously we can see this game every night.”

Clashes over Sheikh Jarrah this month have precipitated new fighting between Israeli forces and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza and is a listed terrorist group in Canada, with both sides launching airstrikes and rockets at each other. one against the other.

A ceasefire was declared Friday after 11 days of fighting that killed more than 200 Palestinians in Gaza and 12 Israelis.

East Jerusalem, which is currently controlled by Israel but whose ownership is claimed by the Palestinians, has been largely untouched by the attacks. But Boucher said the air raid sirens went off on one occasion, sending the Canadians and others scrambling for safety.

The training mission does not operate in Gaza but rather in the West Bank, which is controlled by the Palestinian Authority under rival Hamas Fatah. Despite being largely confined to their compound, Boucher added, the Canadians continued to work remotely.

While Boucher described the tensions in the region as palpable, he suggested that the relative calm in the West Bank is proof that the training mission is having an impact as security forces loyal to the Palestinian Authority work with their Israeli counterparts. .

“If you look at Area A, which is the one controlled by the PA security forces, things have been relatively calm and under control,” he said.

“The relationship between the PA security forces and the coordination with the Israel Defense Forces currently takes place 24/7. And I would say that is probably what is preventing the violence from happening. erupt in Area A in the West Bank.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 24, 2021.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press



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